A lot was expected of Isaac Benard this season. And while the Hanford senior slugger didn’t disappoint his team or his coach, in his mind, he felt he could have done more.
“It’s a little disappointing compared to last year,” said Benard, who won the Mid-Columbia Conference triple crown last season. “This year was definitely a lot different than last year. Everyone pitched to me a little more carefully, but when I did get a (good) pitch, I didn’t execute as well as I should have. It was an odd year.”
Benard may be critical of himself, but the MCC coaches had no trouble seeing his worth, naming him the conference player of the year for the second year in a row. His performance at the plate and in the outfield also landed him the Tri-City Herald’s All-Area player of the year honor.
Kiona-Benton’s Steve Woods earned All-Area coaching honors after leading the Bears to the Class 1A Final Four.
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The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Benard hit .423 with 32 hits, 32 runs scored, 25 RBIs, five home runs, 10 doubles and one triple. He also walked 14 times and struck out nine times.
“Isaac is the best hitter I have coached,” said Falcons coach Tom DeWitz. “He has good hands. He has a special swing. He makes it look so easy, but he works at it.”
As the Falcons’ leadoff hitter, Benard’s value went way beyond numbers.
“He understands the big picture and he doesn’t put himself above others,” DeWitz said. “Pitchers were careful what they threw to him, but it made the other guys around him better hitters because of that. They can’t afford to do that with every guy.”
“It can be frustrating, but I’ve gotten used to it,” Benard said. “It’s good and bad, but I understand why. I expected a couple of balls here and there, but when I did get them, I didn’t help myself — I kept getting myself out. There are guys in the league I wouldn’t pitch to.”
Kennewick’s JJ Hancock and Dylan Wilbert are on that list.
“They are fun to play against, but it’s frustrating,” Benard said. “You want an easy win and they are tough to play against. We played together in the feeder game a couple of weeks ago and that was fun. We played together when we were 13 and my dad (Marvin Benard) coached. We were pretty good.”
Benard’s baseball sense had been ingrained in him since he was a toddler. His father played in the majors for the San Francisco Giants (1995-2003). Candlestick Park was his playground.
“As a kid, I thought that was normal,” said Benard, who like his father plays center field and bats left-handed “I thought this was how everyone lived. I liked the family days and batting practice before the games. That was a lot of fun.”
And now that it’s Isaac’s turn to shine, he admits it’s great to have his dad around when his swing isn’t working, or just to talk things through.
“It’s nice when I need him he’s there,” Benard said. “But he doesn’t push and I appreciate that.”
Benard made a verbal commitment to Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore., and had hopes of being selected in the recent Major League Baseball draft but didn’t get the call.
“I wasn’t too disappointed,” Benard said. “It gave me more motivation to go out and work harder.”
Woods, in his first year with Kiona-Benton, took a struggling program, with just three seniors, and turned it around.
“This program was broken when I got here,” Woods said. “They won three league games last year. There was not as whole lot of team togetherness. I knew that would be a huge issue. We got them focused, believing in us (coaches) and themselves — that’s when things started to click.”
The Bears (17-10) were second in the SCAC East with a 7-3 record, just a step behind champion Connell (8-2). They won five elimination games to put themselves in the Class 1A semifinals. They finished fourth overall, but it was a huge victory for Ki-Be, which last reached this point of the season in 1996.
“We took it game by game and they bought into it,” Woods said. “We started six sophomores, but the kids came up huge. (Senior) James Deaton was so good for us. He had 90 strikeouts, how much more dominant can you get?”
Woods is no stranger to the Herald’s All-Area team. He was a first-team infielder in 2006 when he played for River View. He hit cleanup for the Panthers and finished with a .517 average.
“I have that hanging on my office wall,” Woods said of the 2006 honor.
MVP OF | Isaac Benard, sr., Hanford
Coach | Steve Woods, Kiona-Benton
1B | Colton Plew, sr., Kennewick
2B | Larry DeWitt, sr., Kennewick
3B | Anthony Porcaro, sr., Hanford
SS | Spencer Locati, sr., Walla Walla
C | Dylan Wilbert, sr., Kennewick
OF | Isaac Benard, sr., Hanford
OF | JJ Hancock, sr., Kennewick
OF | Steven Sordahl, sr., Kennewick
DH | Connor Morfin, sr., Southridge
Utl | Griffey March, soph., Richland
P | Ryan Kimball, soph., Walla Walla
P | Jacob Anderson, jr., Hanford
1B | Jamie Hopp, sr., Hanford
2B | David Pontarolo, sr., Walla Walla
3B | Gibson McGeorge, sr., Richland
SS | Quentin Lafontaine, jr., Kennewick
C | Aaron Enderlin, sr., Hanford
OF | Mitch Piper, sr., Richland
OF | Dylan Keech, sr., Kamiakin
OF | Spencer Bennion, sr., Chiawana
DH | Carson Miller, jr., Richland
Utl | Austin Forsyth, sr., Connell
P | Matt Driver, soph., Kennewick
P | James Deaton, sr., Kiona-Benton
Best of the Rest
P: Mark Driver, sr., Kennewick; David Marshall, sr., Kamiakin; Gibson McGeorge, sr., Richland. Utility: Tim Ellis, sr., Columbia-Burbank; Jerry Reyes, jr., Warden. 3B: Jess Hawk, jr., Connell. OF: Stuart Moore, sr., Richland; Roger Ingram, Jr., Pasco; Kal Gray, jr., Walla Walla.